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Across the Aisle: Syracuse Edition

The final Q&A of the regular season

Syracuse v Duke Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

This really is the last football Q&A of the regular season, where did the time go? Always thankful to John Cassillo for answering my questions! Please make sure to check him out @JohnCassillo on the twitter machine and you can see my answers to his questions here.

And here. we. go.

Blogger So Dear: First season without Eric Dungey terrorizing opposing offenses. Give it a grade?

Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician: Of course, this is a reference to Dino Babers’s first Syracuse season without Dungey -- I’ve sadly had to endure many. This year’s Orange offense has lacked for a lot sans its dynamic former QB, but some of that can be chalked up to a pretty poor offensive line, most of all. Without much of a push up front, the run game’s struggled, and that’s also forced Tommy DeVito into a one-dimensional offense that’s also seen him sacked a ton. Giving out a grade for the offense, I’d have to go with a C.

BSD: What’s been the biggest difference from week 1 to now the last week of the season?

TNIAAM: In week one, we still had sky-high hopes and felt like the Orange Bowl was attainable. In the last week of the season, we’re not bowl eligible and have been ready for this season to be over for a month now. The biggest difference is despair.

BSD: Who do you look for to make an impact in this game on each side of the ball?

TNIAAM: Offensively, there’s probably going to be a heavy dose of Moe Neal. Though the senior running hasn’t necessarily put up the numbers we were hoping for in 2019, he’s actually been resurgent in the last couple weeks thanks in part to a shift on the offensive line. If SU stays in this one, he’s why.

On defense, Andre Cisco’s been one of the nation’s top ballhawks for two seasons now (11 picks in 19 games) and he’s made his presence known in all parts of the field. The Deacons have been picked off a decent number of times this year, so it wouldn’t surprise me to see Cisco at the other end of one of those on Saturday.

BSD: What’s been the most concerning part on both ends of the ball?

TNIAAM: Have already hinted at it a couple times, but Syracuse’s offensive line has been a mess all year, and a recent uptick only serves to temporarily calm our nerves. If Wake can get a lead, that’ll force the Orange to pass more than they’d prefer, putting DeVito under pressure and this offense out of sync.

Defensively, the linebackers have been a problem all year, and have especially struggled against mobile QBs. Jamie Newman’s ability to pick up yardage with his legs is likely to be exploited quite a bit.

BSD: What realistic expectations did the Syracuse faithful have coming into this year, and how do you think they finish?

TNIAAM: While many national pundits saw SU in the Orange Bowl, anything in the 7-5 to 9-3 range was probably considered “realistic” coming into this season. How Syracuse finishes seems pretty obvious at this point, no? they’re either winning four or five games, and basically erasing all of the program hype generated last season. Realistic fans see this as a stumbling block and a down year worthy of examination, and a few adjustments to Dino Babers’s coaching staff.

BSD: Syracuse wins if they come out and do what?

TNIAAM: Run the ball well and connect on some shots downfield, while getting pressure on Jamie Newman and forcing a mistake or two.

BSD: On the other hand what can they not do if they want to win this game?

TNIAAM: Make the same sort of mistakes we saw early on last week vs. Louisville. Syracuse let the Cardinals score quickly, failed to convert a great early drive into a touchdown and fumbled a punt return. This is not a team that plays well from behind. So if Wake can find itself up 10 early, that could be enough to mess up the gameplan for good.

BSD: Who scares you the most on the Wake Forest team?

TNIAAM: Newman, for sure. He ran all over Duke last week, and I’d argue Syracuse’s linebackers have even less speed to prevent him from getting out into space. Obviously he can throw the ball as well. But his mobility is the scariest part against that just let Mycale Cunningham do whatever he wanted.

BSD: For those traveling up, any recommendations?

TNIAAM: The last game’s always a weird one, since most students won’t be around and with the a bowl game out of the question, it’s not necessarily going to be all that lively around campus, Still, be sure to get yourself over to Faegan’s over on Marshall Street (just blocks from the Dome). If you’re going to be downtown at all, the Evergreen, Buried Acorn, Wolff’s Biergarten and Willow Rock are some worthwhile beer spots. I know Dinosaur Bar-B-Que has been shouted in your general direction over the years many a time. I’ll just gently mention its name instead, and say that it’s really good food and drink, even if some Carolinians that visit may not find barbecue to their exact standards.

If you have a car, be sure to check out Prison City Brewery in Auburn as well.

BSD: Prediction?

TNIAAM: I think aspects of Syracuse’s recent offensive revival are worth believing in, and that should pay some dividends against Wake Forest’s defense (which allowed 27 points to a Duke squad that SU held to six points just a week earlier). Still, the Orange defense has major question marks in the middle, and those linebackers are going to be hard-pressed to keep up with the Deacons’ talent at the skill positions. Neither team is going to excel at stopping each other, and the game winds up getting decided by whichever squad makes fewer mistakes down the stretch. Unfortunately (for us), the Orange don’t have the track record this year to buy their chances. I’ll take Wake by a weird score of 38-32.